Campfire Series 1 – Why We Hunt – Hear Powerful Answers

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt

 

Hunting has been around for ages. However, it has never been as wildly criticized as it is today, especially with women getting their recognition in the field. Understanding why people hunt can actually help change misconceptions. Renowned hunters Brooke Dzara, Tom Opre, Jeremiah Doughty, Chase Bowman, Tim Cool, Scott Jordan, and Tom Denney give their opinions about why people hunt and what they think about women hunters, and share their experiences with anti-hunters. Social media is one of the greatest vehicles that affect the reputation of the hunting world. It can hinder but also help spread the word of their cause, and banding together as a group with an honest purpose is a way to do that.

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Campfire Series 1 – Why We Hunt – Hear Powerful Answers

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntWhat this is all about is getting like-minded individuals together, we’re going to be sitting down having a discussion and talk about all things outdoors, whether it be hunting, whether it be different meal tips, whether it’s all about getting people involved in the outdoors and how we could change lives and guide the direction toward more outdoorsmen stewardship. I want to kick off this discussion here with something that I came across actually in Instagram. A lot of you guys know there’s a hunter out there by the name of Brittany Jill.

She’s a great outdoors woman. She does a lot of hunting and fishing and stewardship. She’s been on an elk hunt and she’s had quite a few people bash her, gave her death threats, call her disgusting, just overall vile things, attacking her character and her lineage and what she does as a passion. We’ve seen an increase of outdoorsmen and hunters. Why do you guys feel that there are more females being attacked on social media pages and generally overall, whether it be Eva Shockey, Britt Jill, Kendall, any of these female hunters, why do we see more and more females being the target than we see a lot of the males? I’ll open this up to our lone female one here, Brooke.

I have followed Eva and a lot of those girls for a long time. I watched Eva rise to fame after I met her in 2013. I met her when I won the Youth Hunter of the Year Award through Cabela’s. We talked about going on a girls hunt and then we never were able to make it happen. I followed Eva’s Facebook and Instagram from then on through now and I was actually looking at her husband’s because he was being attacked over a bear hunt. I really noticed Eva get really bashed over predators more than anything else. I think for women, a lot of what we’re seeing is women getting a lot of the flak because women are expected to be these nurturing, loving individuals almost more than men by society for whatever reason. Because of that, there is this disgust associated with us, those of us who do these masculine activities and also kill. It’s almost seen as unnatural. That’s what I got from a lot of the comments that I had seen and attacking girls’ character. Whereas when I saw Luke Bryan put something up that he had hunted, he is so famous and had a lot less flak than what I’d seen for Kendall and Eva. I think that’s why.

Tom, your thoughts?

Thanks for asking me. It’s great to hear what Brooke was saying. I started years ago an online series called Extreme Huntress. The whole idea behind the series was to create and promote women who hunt, basically because we need to have everybody involved in wildlife conservation and sustainable utilization. That’s hunting. When we started this thing, we caught a lot of flak from the anti-hunters. To answer your question, I really think that there are a lot of people in our society that don’t understand. Let’s face it, they don’t know where their food comes from. We’ve all seen the videos on YouTube and other places on TV where they’re asking people these questions about where did their steak come from and they all want to say the grocery store and it comes on a piece of styrofoam and wrapped in plastic. We all know as hunters that that’s not how it really works. These people, because they don’t have that knowledge because they’re so distanced from that wild land interface or Mother Nature, because they’re ignorant about the situation on the ground, living in cities and living in areas where somebody else is doing their killing for them, we have a whole society where a segment of that society really doesn’t understand.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntWhen you take a woman, a bearer of life, our mothers out there. Our Extreme Huntresses almost always are married mothers with kids that have good careers, they’re smart, intelligent people, healthy folks. I think for a long time, the anti-hunting establishment has utilized the stereotyped beer-swilling, whiskey-drinking, shooting-up-signs, redneck hunter as their rallying cry and literally to help raise funds for their efforts. My wife Olivia was a beauty pageant winner in 2003. She was Mrs. Nebraska when she worked for Mary and Dick Cabela. She had to have a cause when she ran and that cause was to promote hunters as wildlife conservationists. The pageant backed her on that. She didn’t win, but it gave her a platform to talk about the importance of the hunter as a wildlife conservationist.

Over the last few years since she won that, she’s been the target of tons and tons of anti-hunting hate mail and e-mails. We hear about it and we see about it, whether it be Eva Shockey or Melissa Bachman or Rebecca Francis. There’s a long line of them. I really truly think that these women represent a threat to the anti-hunting establishment, but also, the general public that doesn’t understand where their food comes from. They can’t understand why some woman would go out there and take the life of an animal. We all know why the answer is, we want to be an active participant in the circle of life and we always have been as human beings. We want to take responsibility for it. I think women, they definitely hit a nerve with the anti-hunting establishment.

I have a lot of friends, all the girls you’re naming I’m friends with most of them and hearing their story about why they’re getting attacked and a lot of the stuff, it’s sad to say, it’s a lot of sexual stuff. They’re coming at them saying “You’re supposed to be, in a sense, the sex symbol to us, you’re not supposed to be this masculine, beautiful female who goes out.” I’m a dad of two daughters and so I look up to all these females and I talk to them all the time and I have them talk to my daughters. I want my daughters to have the confidence and the maturity to be beautiful on and off the field, to be beautiful with their nature, with their words.

When I watch my friends get bashed, and then they call me crying and I read all the comments, it makes me emotional and it makes me angry sitting there going, “They’re so much more than just that.” You have the flip side where you have the girls that are out there with their boobs hanging out holding a fish or holding a dead deer. It’s almost that counteractive part. Like me, I’ve never drunk a drop of alcohol and I’ve never shot a sign, like you were saying, but I still get categorized in that group of redneck hillbillies or whatever they want to say.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntFemales, even like looking at Brooke’s pictures on Facebook, she’s beautiful in the field and guys are expecting her to be this sex symbol rather than this provider for their family. For so long, men are the ones going out and getting the food, men are the ones going out and getting this and that. I’m a stay-at-home dad and my wife goes out and works full-time. I think there’s that role reversal that, as a society, they’re scared of. The anti-hunters, being a wild-game chef, I get slammed constantly. There was a big push.

I had 142 death threats because some PETA group got on and saw a picture that I posted and went crazy and threatened my daughters, threatened my wife, threatened me all because I posted a picture of me cutting that meat. You take a female in that aspect where they think, “They’re a weaker species, so we can attack them more and they’re going to cry, they’re going to break down.” I think they see the opposite, these females are coming out even stronger than the guys in some parts. I don’t know, it’s this thin ice that I think that the females are stronger than the ice itself, so it’s cool.

Jeremiah, I think you hit the nail on the head with that saying that females are a lot stronger than the ice that they’re walking on right now. I think that’s a very poignant statement in the fact that we’ve seen a lot of these female hunters band together and help support each other. We don’t really see that from the male community, we see a lot of the guys going out there saying, “We’re allowed to,” and that hee-haw mentality. I’m all for that, but we don’t see that strong support system between a lot of the male hunters out there. It seems like the males take it more personal and fire back with a lot of the hateful sort of comments, which doesn’t help our cause. From a male population, how could we be better when we’re dealing with a lot of these anti-hunters?

Some hunters are not credible and authentic about their cause in the hunting industry. Click To Tweet

I think what you guys said is 100% true, as far as touching back on the women thing. My opinion of a lot of that is it’s just something completely new more than anything. Many years ago, and I know I’m not old enough to be talking about many years ago, but there really wasn’t that many women that hunt. Now we’ve got all these women that are interested in it. We’ve got all the social media stuff that makes them more noticed. It’s a new avenue for people to travel to attack hunting in general. I do see a whole lot more of it towards the women, but I think more than anything it’s something new, is my opinion on it. As far as what we can do as far as the men’s side is, what Jeremiah said about we don’t stick together much. It’s more of a competition anymore of who can kill the bigger deer and things like that. We end up beating each other down. I see a lot of jealously among hunters. A lot of pressure that they put on themselves to outdo everybody else.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntIt seems to me that a lot of guys hunt for reasons. It seems to just be able to put up a post on Facebook about their deer. I talk to a lot of guys and I did a big archery event and I was there trying to hand out brochures and things for Pope & Young, Boone & Crockett, Whitetails Unlimited, all these different clubs and nobody cared. Two people out of the hundreds of people there, two people actually sat down and wanted to learn about it. That was it. A lot of people wanted to talk about hunting, but as soon as you flipped it over to conservation, that was the end of the story. Once you quit talking about big bucks and, “I killed this big buck,” and once that was done, it was over. We need to more band together, figure out where this thing is going and not beat each other down so much. That’s my opinion on it. We beat each other down too much and don’t stand together.

Tim?

We’re getting away from the female thing, but to touch on that, a lot of the females that are in the industry have a lot of followers who are primarily male hunters. They’re easily accessible by these anti-hunting groups and they’re vulnerable to that. I don’t know what to think about the threats and the comments that I’ve seen people post for both male and female. I’ve always been on the side of I don’t try to change their mind, why would they try to change mine? We can coexist. In addition to the remarks about males, this industry I’ve seen more people lose friendships than making friendships. The authenticity of some hunters, their credibility isn’t there. They’re not willing to enter their deer into Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young because although they’re a celebrity hunter and have a television show, they didn’t shoot that deer in a place that they would be able to enter it into Pope & Young. The male, just as a species or as an individual, it is a competition and we all probably have to constantly remind ourselves to be open to other friends and other hunters.

Scott Jordan, you’ve educated a tremendous amount of kids, let’s start with the women in the sport, in the outdoor sports and then the testosterone factor for the guys. What’s your take?

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt40% of the kids that I take places are young ladies. As a father, it’s so hard for me with Brooke to see some of that stuff. I truly believe that something needs to be done about it because honestly when it’s a death threat, then that should be taken seriously and there need to be more steps taken than just what’s going on. Nothing gets done and then they get to continue. What’s nice with students is I don’t have a lot of that. Guides where we go will tell you, like when we go to New Zealand, this was my 16th year for taking kids to New Zealand hunting red stags. One of the reasons that I do that is simply because of the hunting age in New York. I can take a kid to New Zealand and they can shoot a red stag when they can’t shoot a deer here. Those kids, we don’t have a lot of that, but I do see some of that with Brooke. She’s a trooper because I’ll tell you there’s certain stuff she doesn’t share with me because she knows what avenue that, “Dad, I didn’t show you that one.” That’s good. They are such a big component, a larger contingency and more girls getting interested. We need to protect them. Whatever it is that we need to do.

With the media now and as awful as it is, if you can’t explain something in twenty seconds or less, than they’re not interested. Most of our topics, especially bringing up hunting in Africa, you need a half an hour to discuss that thoroughly and actually explain it. To most people, they’re out ten seconds, twenty seconds and they’re finished. They’re not listening anymore and onto the next thing. Those girls that are interested truly want to be part of that. I teach in a rural area, and as you probably know, 19% of our students in this country are rural and this is what they’re interested in. They are our base and they’re going to be our future. I would love to see more things done to take care of them. In New Zealand the guides would tell you that the girls are a better shot. They listen. They are role models in our industry and we need to do something about that, for sure.

We touched on a real good point when we were coming to the death threats and protecting, but unfortunately everybody has the availability to be anonymous on the internet due to the advent of social media. As a hunting community, does social media hinder or help us help spread our words?

Tom Denney?

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntI think it does a little bit of both. It helps us get out message out there and to spark interest in all of our followers, but it also gives the advantage to the anti-hunters to come on and do exactly what they’re doing. They’re picking us apart and to touch on what you guys are talking about with why the women are getting it even worse, you guys all had really good answers to that. To keep from mirroring those answers, I was going to ask in the form of a question, do you think that they’re doing that, that they’re going after women to stop the growth? Men, we’re all bashing each other, “You should have let that deer go another year,” and “It’s not a Booner,” and all that stuff. The women and the kids are the future of the sport. That’s the direction that we’re going. That’s where it’s growing. Do you think they’re attacking them to stop the growth?

When you look at it there, Tom, to your point, even before social media, we were all young and we were all youth. We were all involved in hunting or conservation or outdoor pursuits from a very young age. We’ve only seen our numbers. That could be due to social media, seemingly grow and continues to grow. It seems like there’s always new outdoor pursuit pages out on social media or other avenues, whether it is showcasing a big wall-hanger or like Jeremiah, with what you do after you make that kill. We’ve seen a lot of it come out. We’ve seen a diversification within it between field to plate or field fitness, things along those lines.

We’ve seen more of a growth. I’m not saying that they’re not attacking the females to neuter that sort of growth, we could say, but they’re going after them. Mirroring what a lot of the people have said, because they are supposed to be the fairer sex. I think every single male in here can agree that every single female hunter that they’ve come across in the field would run circles around them, whether it’s in a stand or in a blind. They’re making shots that us as males would either never attempt or could never make. Our women are battling back in that regard in the fact that they’re able to say, “I know that you’re attacking me, but look what I can do better than a lot of the males.”

Women could make shots that men would never attempt or could never make. Click To Tweet

For me, like, being that dad, I posted a picture of my eight-year-old and my four-year-old dove hunting. They went dove hunting with me, we went out there and had a good time. I had so much more bashing from the hunting community for taking my daughters out than I did any anti-hunter. I went and looked at everyone that was being negative and they were all hunters. They were all following Cabela’s, they were all following most of you guys. They all had pictures of big deer, big birds and duck blinds. The negative stuff they said about my daughters and me taking my daughters out at that age were disgusting. I look at it from the fact of 50/50. We got a 50% antis trying to stop the women, but there are a lot of male hunters who for so long deer camp was just a way to get away from your wife or just a way to get away from your sisters and stuff. Me growing up, my sisters always hunted with us. My sister was always a better shot. I learned to shoot quicker and faster so that I would drop more birds than she would have a chance to, but she would shoot way less shells. Deer camp has always been like that.

We went to turkey camp and this guy was like, “My wife loves turkey hunting, but I won’t bring her because this is guy camp.” It blew my mind because that’s never the way I was raised. I was always raised that hunting is hunting and you’re out there as a family and it’s a communal sport. If you got twelve people out there shooting birds, you have twelve times as many birds coming home than if just you and your dad and my little brother went. I have four older sisters. If they didn’t hunt, we wouldn’t have had nearly as many ducks coming home because my dad is a horrible shot. You look at this idea behind with me bring my daughters out there. We went out dove hunting this time and the whole entire field was all males. My daughter comes out and she’s wearing pink camouflage, she has her pink little Remington 870 that we had dipped in Mossy Oak girl camo. I literally had a guy walk up and says, “You might want to go put your daughter back in the car. It’s a little too hot out here.” My daughter just looked at him and was like, “Maybe it’s too hot for you,” at eight years old.

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt

 

That’s like looking at Brooke and looking at Eva and looking at Hannah Barron and looking at these other women. They don’t care anymore, they’re like, “This is who I am and this is why I am.” I think us as male hunters need to be more like that dad figure, like Scott and myself, where we can sit there saying, “These are our daughters. These are women that we need to respect. These are someone’s mothers, this is someone’s sister.” They can outshoot us and they can do it, but deer camp is no longer just for the male population. I went out with one of my best friends out bear hunting out in Alberta, Canada. She was sitting there and the whole entire bear camp was all dudes. They looked at her and they’re like, “Where are you going to pee if you’re out there?” She was like, “The same place you are, next to that tree.” “There’s no way for makeup.”

She’s like, “I don’t care.” She shot this seven-foot eight-inch bear. Came back to camp, it was the biggest bear in camp. She shot it with a bow and arrow and all the other dudes were shooting with a rifle. We pull up with this bear. The guys’ attitude changed instantly, she became the coolest chick in camp and everyone wanted to talk to her. They all wanted to hear the story because she put her money where her mouth is. I think it’s sad that they have to do that, but I think as hunters, we’re doing more destruction in the female and to each other and for conservation. Most hunters don’t care about conservation. They just want to go shoot a big buck and that’s all they care about.

I think you touched on it there, Jeremiah that it seems like there’s a lot of insecurities for us as male hunters that it used to be a male-dominated pursuit. It used to be a male-dominated thing. As you said, deer camp or bear camp used to be 100% males, but now there are more and more females getting involved. Is it males that need to more or less evolve and accept that females are getting into these camps, into these sort of outdoor activities? Nine times out of ten they’re better than us. Is it insecurity from the male side? Brooke is coming out to bear camp and she’s slaying. Whereas I’m out there having a hell of a time trying to put down a bear. Do we need to band together and support our females? I see a lot on social media where the females are getting lit up. We don’t really see a whole lot of males stepping up and saying, “I’ve hunted with her,” or, “I’ve hunted with females and they could hang just as well as we do.”

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntI’m thinking about Extreme Huntress. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of the candidates on my show and Melanie Peterson won it. Melanie became the first person in the world, on planet Earth, to kill a Cape buffalo with a high-powered air rifle. There was a lot that went into that. They built a rifle specifically for Melanie to do this, but it took a lot of guts, cojones, whatever you want to say, for Melanie to face down that Cape buffalo. She had two PHs and everything was right there. Melanie is drop-dead gorgeous and all the Extreme Huntresses, they’re beautiful not only on the outside but the inside. What Tom has done with that program, put some guys quaking in their boots because these gals flat can shoot. They can haul out an elk if they have to, they can ride, they can do it all and some of the guys don’t measure up, like, CJ, you just said. Tom let’s talk a little bit about Extreme Huntress and how that is helping reshape the hunting community.

Thanks, Bruce. I’ll just say a little tidbit there about Melanie. Melanie is probably older than most of the people here, including the gentleman here. Scott, me and Bruce are the oldest ones here. She’s a full-time outfitter and she runs it herself and her husband doesn’t hunt and he doesn’t work in the outfitting business. Believe it or not, he’s got his own business and does his own thing and she runs the operation, has been real successful with it and she’s the real deal. Extreme Huntress was created to promote women who are interested in getting involved in hunting and shooting endeavors.

The big reason behind it is, as it’s been echoed earlier, is the fact that if Mom goes hunting, you show me a mom who hunts that doesn’t get her kids into the outdoors, whether it’s with a bow or a fishing rod or out there with a rifle or a shotgun. Let’s face it. Hunting has over the millennia made us the people that we are. I’m a firm believer that women who hunt are going to have great families. When you have divorce rates historically at 50% here in this country, I don’t know about you guys, I’ve got young kids from four to fourteen. It seems like at five, six, seven years of age, these kids are getting indoctrinated into all kinds of extracurricular activities.

In most states and provinces you can’t hunt until you’re twelve or fourteen years of age. If you haven’t had that male, that stereotypical male mentor out there and you’re already involved in some other rotary this or some other sporting event at seven, eight, nine years of age and you can’t hunt until you’re twelve or fourteen, then we’re losing that whole group of kids out there that would be involved in the outdoors and those outdoor pursuits. That’s really the reason behind it. That’s our mission. Extreme Huntress was never created to create a profit.

It is definitely a nonprofit. I didn’t go out and get the nonprofit designation. It’s always fun every year. We wrapped up filming at the FTW Ranch down in Texas and then we’re at a private ranch to do some hunting. We’ve got some phenomenal gals from around the world that are participating this year. Again, Bruce, every year the women that participate in this thing are the real deal. They ultimately are going to be great spokespeople for the hunting community and that’s what we’re looking for.

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt

 

I don’t know if you remember Rachel Burke. She runs Leithen Valley and she was one of your finalists one year. One time we’re on the mountainside and one of my kids was not being real manly. She took the whole hindquarters, both sides, of a huge red stag and she was three months pregnant, threw it over her shoulders, blood running down the back of her neck and humped that off the hill. I can’t show that on TV, as you guys know. We’re limited by all these little different rules. On National Geographic they could show that, but we can’t. That’s a limitation.

With some of the shows that I’ve seen, there is a divide as to whether you’re on the Outdoor Channel or whatever and I’m not quite getting it, but because we’re on Pursuit Channel. We’ve dealt with a few things. One in particular, I’m not going to name the guy’s name, but we were at the Cabela’s award ceremony for Brooke and this guy found out that she won that. He was so happy to talk to her. The second he found out that we had a show on the Pursuit Channel, he turned around and wouldn’t even comment to her one more time. It was amazingly awful. In some cases, as somebody brought up, we can be our own worst enemies and I don’t get that part of it.

It is necessary to think about how you raise and put the right types of terminology out there to the general public. Click To Tweet

There’s been a lot of talk about women and talking about that certain men out there aren’t happy to have women in the field with them. Let’s face it, hunting in this day and age has morphed from being what I would call a biocentric approach. Jeremiah obviously wants to put food on the table and that’s what it was like for me growing up as a kid with a journalist for a father, a newspaper man. In this day and age, our modern hunters have a lot of changes and a lot of things going on. For the last 40 years since I started hunting, I’ve watched it change from it was all about being in camp together, the camaraderie and spending time in the outdoors. It’s morphed into when we talk about outdoor television.

It’s morphed to it’s about Booners, it’s about tape measures. My wife is a measurer for Boone & Crockett, a master measurer for SCI, one of eight or nine people that can teach the class in the world, and also a measurer for Rowland Ward. She won’t tell anybody in a hunting camp that she’s a measurer because it’s happened in the past where someone comes in and they know that she’s a measurer and they say, “My guide says we got this great 170 buck. Measure it up for me.” She goes out there and measures and it comes out a 169 and the guy is disappointed in his hunt. “It’s a shit hunt and it wasn’t worth it,” and then he’s pissed off at his guide because his guide told him it was a 170 Boone & Crockett buck.

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt

 

You guys are hitting on a key point here. We really have to change how we talk about hunting, but we also have to talk about why we hunt. If it’s about tape measures and putting your name in a record book, then I don’t think you’re hunting for the right reasons. We have to think about that. I don’t blame the industry. When I say industry, it’s very different than the community. We’re all part of the community, but the industry is anybody that makes a buck of hunting or the firearms industry related to hunting. I look at this and think that we have to figure out ways to work together. I don’t care if you whittle a bow, make it by hand and you want to hunt, you use dogs or you want to hunt behind a fence that’s more than three and a half foot tall.

The reality is that we’re all hunters and we all have to work together. It doesn’t matter what your sex, your creed, your nationality or what your thoughts are politically, but we all have to do what’s right for wildlife. A lot of times I ask people a real simple question. At the end of the day ask yourself, are the decisions you made in the best interest of wildlife and habitat conservation? Are they in the best interest of the dollar or the Rand in Africa or your organization or your ego? You have to ask that simple question. Are the decisions you made in the best interest of wildlife and habitat conservation? It’s not hard to do and it’s not a hard one to answer. You’d be surprised how many people have a hard one putting wildlife first.

I got to say though, Tom, two things you said was the record book thing. Many people want to know the score, but many people are not actually members or entering their deer into the record books. Pope & Young is the only organization to my knowledge that supports bowhunting solely as its mission statement. The money that goes into that and I’ve been to the convention, the Pope & Young Convention goes to supporting conservation of bowhunting and so forth. Many record books are state-run or privately run like New York where I’m from has a New York State Big Buck Club.

That organization doesn’t do anything, but these Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young organizations have been the forefront of protecting our bowhunting and deer hunting and probably primarily big-game hunting. I think that should be noted that entering your deer in the record book, most guys that actually do enter it are out for bragging rights. Look at guys like Chuck Adams. I met him personally he’s not going to boast or brag and look at how many animals he has in the Pope & Young’s. I know people who have 50 or 60 animals in the Pope & Young record books and again, it’s the guys that are bragging about the score, we’ve lost them years ago.

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt

 

I totally get where you’re coming from. My wife gets pissed at me any time I don’t put something in the record books and I tell her I don’t hunt for record books. It’s personal preference, it doesn’t matter. What I’m trying to say is that for the last many years that I’ve been around hunting from my childhood through adult, let’s face it, it’s not the hunting industry’s fault why we have such an emphasis on record books. How do you sell a bow and arrows? How do you sell camouflage? How do you sell optics?

You have to differentiate your product from your competitor, it’s capitalism. By nature of that, there are organizations companies that will work with people that are very successful in the field and because of that we now see people that will literally break game laws, spook fans of the world, people like that, that will break the law in order to potentially get them a sponsorship or a TV show. Because of social media, we now have this floodgate of information that has no checks and balances. This information not only goes out in the traditional mainstream media, but it also goes out all over the place on social media.

My point is that we got to think about how we phrase and how we put the right type of terminology out there to the general public. We have to ask ourselves, do we need to take pictures of giraffes? I call them zoo animals, elephants and what not? It’s an incredible experience to be able to go on a hunt for whatever species of animal and be successful in the field and for Jeremiah, to be able to eat that animal. At the same time we’re dealing with a huge segment of our society that doesn’t understand why we hunt because they’re completely disconnected from it. We got to start thinking about being smarter in how we portray why we do what we do.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntTo piggyback on what Tom is saying, it’s not to be afraid to go and do it, not being afraid to post a picture of the meat or post a picture of your hand that’s bloody. There’s been a lot of record book deer that outfitters and guides are like, “I got to measure that.” They throw their tape in the bushes and they say, “No, I don’t want to have to know that.” When someone asks me, I want to be able to tell them, “I got 198 pounds of meat off of it.” That to me is my record, but I think, like Chase and Tim, you can be driven by something else as long as it’s respectful. I took out three vegans on their very first hunt. I took out this vegan on a dove hunt. He called me up and said, “I want to go on a dove hunt?” He came out there, I went with him, he got his hunting license and we got him a Remington 870. We went out and taught him how to shoot.

We’re out in the middle of the field opener of a dove on September 1st. I’m looking at him, he’s all full of tats, he’s skinny and he’s malnourished because he’s eating vegetables. We’re sitting there and he shoots his first dove and it hits the ground. I walk over to him, I set my gun down and go, “Are you okay?” He was like, “I don’t know.” We walked over to that dove, and doves are flying over our heads. I’m not shooting, he’s not shooting and everyone is yelling, “12:00, 3:00.” We just sat on the ground and he just held this dove. We talked about it. After about 30 minutes he went, “I’m good,” he put it in his bag and we started shooting again. I literally got a text message that said, “When’s our next hunt?”

The fact that I wasn’t afraid to take out someone to teach them something. I wasn’t afraid to say, “If I don’t shoot my limit of dove, I’m okay with it.” I’ve posted pictures of me holding up my duck lanyard with no ducks on it. In social media we don’t do that. Unless we limit, we don’t post it. Unless we get the biggest deer, we don’t post it because you get made fun of. If you go out and shoot a legal forky mule deer here in California, you’re getting slammed. It’s a beautiful, legal, four-year-old deer that just is a fork. People are like, “It’s not a record book.” I’m like, “No, but it’s feeding my family and my neighbors.” I think where Tom was saying about, “Do we need to post a picture of the zebra?” No.

Can it be a really beautiful picture of their hand on the pelt itself and tell the story behind that hand and that pelt? By all means. That’s more of a beautiful story than this beautiful dead zebra that someone is holding the head all bloody. That’s where we need to look at it. We don’t need to cater to the antis, but we’re giving them fuel for their fire by just holding up a deer that’s covered in blood. If we can do it respectfully and beautiful, then they have no means to stand on. I’ve never had a post deleted by Instagram or Facebook. They get blocked as sensitive material, but I have friends that are getting stuff deleted all the time. They can’t delete it because it doesn’t fall in the category of deletion, just of sensitive material. It’s beautiful what we’re all doing, how we all come from different aspects and we can all love the animal in a certain way.

Extreme HuntressScott, you were going to say something?

One of the biggest changes that I’ve seen and what I get flak about is to make sure everybody, the biggest thing they care about is whether you’re eating it. Obviously that is our thing. In our family, that’s what we do wherever we go and whatever they do. As an omnivore, we’re 20% efficient, so you’re crapping it out. Honestly, when people want to sit there and argue about that yet they’re going to give me all sorts of flak about a mounted animal, I’ve got a caribou out in my wildlife center that I packed that thing 42 miles. I took two trips at 21 miles and every time I look at that mount, it brings me back to that mountain and that moment.

I should have the right as an American citizen to enjoy that and so should everybody else. The taxidermists get hammered on this stuff. It’s another part of our industry. I truly feel that at some point there has to be some eloquent wording put out there so that people start to understand that there are different aspects to all of this and every bit of it’s okay. If I harvested and ate that caribou but yet I still enjoy him, and I will for the rest of my life, I should be allowed to do that. I come from a situation where I didn’t have anybody to show me to hunt. My dad tried, but he wasn’t an outdoor person, so I was self-taught. Having mentors and other people help out, we’re going in the right direction in so many different ways.

Another part of this thing is I’ve had people pound me, it’s okay if we eat it, but they’re antis, yet they turn around, they got a leather belt, a leather purse, they go and sit in an Audi with leather seats. Maybe there’s a fear that hunters don’t want to go there, but it’s one of those things. If you mention that Jell-O, an animal died so you could eat Jell-O and a lot of these people, I’m sure they eat Jell-O. If they’re going to say something against us hunting and having meat, but yet it’s okay. If you mention that brand name, I don’t know if people are afraid, then you can get sued for something like that. Being able to back ourselves up, there’s a whole bunch of information out there on that stuff that needs to be made public. We’re not ignorant and we need not to be treated like we are.

One thinks I’d like to throw out, if I could. Two things. Why I hunt is because it’s a journey that took me from ten years old to now 72 years old to places all over North America, from Ungava Bay to Iliamna and parts in between. The biggest thing that I remember when I was up in Kuujjuaq on Ungava Bay and I flew out and we were hunting caribou and catching brook trout, three to five pounds, and it was just a great trip. There was an elder in camp. I said, “What’s your life all about?” The elders go all the way back. Inuits go all the way back to the Bering Sea land bridge. You think about that. He said, “It’s really simple.”

I said, “How so?” “If the caribou comes, we live. If they don’t come, we die.” I never forgot that lesson from him. I know CJ’s story, hunting has helped me live my whole life for 72 years. It has helped me overcome. You can’t say that in twenty seconds. You can’t say that on CNN or whatever. They won’t get it. They’ll go, “What are you talking about?” I’m talking about I did 30 days of rehab, hunting saved my life. You start thinking about all these things and it comes back to the Inuit elder who said, “If the caribou comes, we live. If they don’t come, we die.” That’s how those people have lived, off the caribou. They killed caribou and they eat every single piece of that.

The other thing about Africa is that nobody that bashes people killing stuff in Africa understand where that protein goes. It goes to the people that live there, the people that have absolutely dirt nothing. They live on dirt floors. When a Cape buffalo, an elephant, a giraffe is killed or whatever, that protein goes to the camp and goes to all the people in the surrounding area. That helps combat poaching. That’s a whole other story for another time. I think of those two things. One, the protein that is shared with people who need it. I share a lot of deer every single year because I’m fortunate to hunt a number of states. People get that meat that needs that meat. The Inuits, “If the caribou come, we live. If they don’t, we die.” To me that’s as simple as it is. Any thoughts or comments?

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt

 

Bruce, you alluded to it there with my story. For those of you guys that don’t know or that haven’t read or listened to the podcast, I was a pretty high-level football player up here in Canada and ended up breaking my neck. After a while, I wasn’t able to go out in the field. I wasn’t able to go out, hunt, fish and be alone in the wild. I felt that pull on my mental psyche. Along Bruce’s Inuit line, I’m a firm believer that the outdoors did save my life on that day where I woke up and said, “I got to do something. I got to go out there and be that voice and let my injury not define me.”

I broke my C2 vertebra, which is commonly known as a hangman’s break and I could have very easily died on that field. I’m fortunate enough to be out in the field and living. It’s been vastly therapeutic for me. I’ve been able to go out there and run, rodeo again, hunt, box and do everything that I was passionate about before. Even in my day-to-day work, it hasn’t hampered me. A big part of that is due to being outdoors. The therapeutic nature of smelling the pines, hearing the waters and the wind, different bird calls and everything. It really circles you back. Once you get into that right frame mentally, anything is easy to achieve.

Without hunting, I don’t know where I would be, without fishing, I don’t know where I would be. It’s been a beautiful journey for that. On Bruce’s second note there as far as Africa goes, I’m with you. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to go down to Mexico and do some hunts and fishing. On day two, we ended up going deep sea and we ended up catching a seven-foot bull shark and brought that thing into shore. We see a lot of people with aquatic conservation, which is great. When we brought that thing over to our boat, we slaughtered it. We were able to donate that to the people that were in need. The people that needed that protein and that needed that meat, with all the bonitas, mahi and barracudas we did the exact same thing.

It was the shark that ended up getting a lot of the blast and a lot of the death threats that I’ve received and a lot of the hate. We butchered it right up for them. Seeing the look of appreciation from the people when we were handing it to them. I know, Chase, you’re big into donating a lot of your meat. I want to talk about that. We’ve alluded to it in the fact that if you’re eating it, it’s seemingly okay. Where does that line get drawn? We shoot that wall-hanger and that record animal and say we eat it or we donate it, what makes one animal different than another? I donated hundreds of deer and I’ve donated a shark. The deer was fine, but the shark was this big hatred. What is the definitive line that we need that script and that we need that softer approach when we’re posting these photos or saying, “I caught a shark,” or “I shot a pronghorn?” How do we outline that?

WTR Campfire | Why People Hunt

 

I personally think a lot of people need to cherish some of the experiences they have more for themselves and not be so quick to post on social media. There are things that I do that I do keep private. For example, a friend and I, we do have a vlog and it’s based around hunting. There’s the thing that we do for example, we’ll float in a river in about a span of two or three miles and we have cameras along this river that’s public land. We’re not posting every single little move and taking all these scenic shot that we probably could be doing because it’s more near and dear to our heart. You go to the hospital, you get three stitches in your finger and people are posting pictures of that. People need to cherish their family time and their experiences more than just for social media. I don’t know where the line gets drawn, I don’t see the problem with a shark. You wouldn’t think anyone would, but these days everybody finds something.

This is something I’ve dealt with a whole lot. Being someone that hunts and travels and things like that as much as I do and then people hear that I don’t eat any animals that I harvest. I do a few, the hogs I normally do, my gator, the axis deer. I’ve been fortunate enough to hunt free-range axis in Texas several times and I love the taste of that meat. One thing with me is I grew up pretty much eating nothing but a wild game. That’s all we had. I know that the times are way different than what they were back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, but when you still live in a single-parent home, things can still be pretty tough even at this day and time.

That’s what I grew up on. As I got older and that’s all I had to eat you get tired of it, then developed an allergy to it. I don’t know if you would call it a trophy hunter or what. I don’t really care much for that term, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I do shoot does. That’s just part of a proper management plan. I take people hunting with me that do shoot smaller deer because that’s what they’re happy with, and that’s great. Here, we’re a three-buck state. I’ll target three deer that I want to harvest. That don’t always happen. I don’t know that it’s ever happened, that I killed all three of them. That’s my plan going in the year. That drives me all year long.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntI’m hunting these three animals. That is my hunt. That’s my passion, is to hunt these animals. Once you take those animals and you post them on Facebook and things, after you get all the jealousy and everything, I’m sure all you guys have experienced that, especially it seems like the bigger the animal, the more people want to bash it. I’m not killing Booners. I’m in Virginia. A Booner here is very rare, they’re not on any of my properties. Whenever it goes to, “I don’t eat them,” it seems to be worse with the bigger animals because they’re like, “You’re just shooting them for the horns.” That’s true in a sense because that is my pride.

Whenever I kill that target animal, that’s what I’ve hunted for. That’s it for me, that is the Mecca. They don’t look at a lot of the lands that I have, my ability to hunt those lands relies on me getting the landowners that don’t hunt that meat. I donate everything I kill. As Chris, was saying with the shark thing, it seems like there’s certain type of animals that people just don’t care about. I went on a hog hunt in Texas and my brother and I shot 63 hogs in three nights down there. The farmer would not let us drag them out of the field, they were in wheat fields. He said, “Leave them. Don’t do anything with them, don’t drag them out.” We skinned getting hogs until we couldn’t do it anymore. He had to get those out.

When you kill that many hogs in that short of time out of your wheat field, you’ve got a problem. People ask me, “How did you eat all that hog meat?” I’m like “To be honest with you, I didn’t.” They don’t care. If I go out here and shoot three deer, it’s a totally different deal. There are more whitetail hunters than anything, in my opinion and maybe that’s what I see because of where I live and things like that. There’s definitely a difference. There’s a difference in species, there’s a difference in the antler size. People freak out if I don’t eat a buck with bigger horns than one with smaller horns. It’s like that animal with the smaller horns is a lesser animal, when it’s not.

I catch a lot of flak about that, “Why do you even hunt if you’re not going to eat it?” I don’t eat it, but other people do. I’ve never killed an animal with the intention of someone not eating it. I skin the animal, I prepare it. Whenever somebody gets meat from me, that’s what they get, is meat. They don’t get a whole animal that’s been around in the back of my truck all day that now they got to skin. I’m not like that. A lot of times that gives a bad name to it too because I know people that will shoot a deer, call around 20 people trying to give it away, and then they take it and drop it off and it’s still got the guts in it. That’s just horrible. I don’t know where the line is there myself because I’ve dealt with it so much and it seems to have never changed.

As soon as I tell people a lot of times that I don’t eat them, it puts a bad taste in their mouth. As you guys can see, I have no problem telling anyone that because it’s who I am, that’s what I do. I have a love for this sport that is unlike what most people will ever realize. There’s a reason why I hunt the way that I do. There’s a level of passion in that. I don’t have to go by everybody else’s rules of, “You’ve got to eat it yourself,” and things like that. It’s not what I do. I would never kill an animal without the intention of someone having that meat. I’m not a wasteful person, but it’s a very fine line there. Wrapping this up, like he was saying about the shark, I don’t know what it is at all. When I killed my gator, nobody expected me to eat it. That was one of the few animals that I actually ate myself. It’s very odd to me and it’s more people let on that they care more than what they do. People like PETA and those organizations that tear us as hunters down.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntIt’s like what Bruce was saying, they don’t care that that animal is donated to the people over there because that’s what they rely on to survive. They don’t care. They’re putting all the animals down, the pets and things. It’s more people trying to find importance in their life than anything, trying to stand behind something no matter how crazy it is. That’s where all these stem from. It’s not that they truly 100% care. If you care about something, you research both sides of it a lot. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, you’ve researched both sides. They have no clue what actually happens because they don’t want to, they’re all just jumping on a wagon to have some purpose in this world, in my opinion. It’s crazy to me.

Brooke, what do you think?

As far as going back CJ’s original question about where do we draw the line, for me what I’ve seen is that predators often trigger a response from antis more than deer. Deer seem to be like, “That’s acceptable. That seems like a normal thing to eat.” When you see people hunt a mountain lion or a bear, all of a sudden everybody loses it. There are a couple of things that happen there. One, people assume they understand things about bears and cats because they grew up reading stories, watching documentaries. They think that they’re cuddly animals. There’s almost this connection because we’re predators too. That it’s wrong. I see a lot of that. As far as being respectful in social media, I’m somebody who’s always been a super people pleaser. I’m an English teacher. I’m all about trying to spin words correctly to make people happy. One of the things that I try to take pride in is that for me, I never post super bloody pictures of animals. Meat, totally but I try to post respectful pictures of animals.

There were couple rules for the SCI and Cabela’s award. You couldn’t have a kid sitting on an animal because it was considered disrespectful. I try to keep that in mind. I have a diverse social media outreach and I have a lot of people who are vegan who still follow me because I spend the time to be eloquent and to help people understand this is why I do what I do, instead of doing the angry, bullish kind of bashing of anti-hunters. I can understand why people who have never done what we do would find it scary, repulsive or be disconnected from it. I try to be empathetic and put myself in their shoes, and then come up with the explanation for them. For me, as far as horns, antlers or things like that, my dad can attest to this. He has always tried to be like, “Brooke, you know you got two tags for this. You could go get another one.” I’m like, “No, I really don’t need to.” I have always been very content with management animals because eating them is one of my priorities, but I also love to put my animals on the wall. I’ve had antis come at me and be like, “That’s disgusting. Why would you do that?” It’s what my dad said earlier. That’s my memory. Besides the pictures, that’s my memory of this amazing thing that I did.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntTo bring it all together, hunters can’t have it all. We spend so much time tearing each other apart. We’ve got a bunch of different viewpoints that everybody has brought up and they’re all okay. Nobody is the blood-thirsty monster that an anti-hunter wants you to believe that we are. We all have different reasons why we do what we do, but it’s all okay. You can mount your animal on the wall, you can take pictures of it, you can only hunt for meat, we can do all of these things and it’s all okay. We need to rally behind and stop judging each other for the reasons why we do it. We have enough flak from people who don’t understand why we do what we do. Doing what we’re doing, taking the time to explain to people that it is about being in the outdoors, it is about feeding your family, it is about this beautiful, wonderful experience that you have with other people, instead of saying, “You’re dumb because you don’t agree with me.” Taking the time to help people understand is how we are going to continue to keep our sport alive.

We’ve all nailed the point on the head here is, we’re all talking about respect. Jeremiah and Brooke, you guys brought up great points in the fact that we don’t need to be posting photos of an animal completely slaughtered. We have to respect and do our best for that animal, as well. That animal gave its life to sustain us, our family and our community. We need to do right by that animal. If you take an animal, great. By all means post it, but be respectful of it. That animal, you need to respect and understand that they gave itself for you. By putting up photos that are essentially targets for these antis, it doesn’t do the animal any justice and we need to do right by the animals. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gator, a whitetail or a shark, we need to be better for the animals that we target.

Let’s just go around one more time to say, why you hunt. Chase, why don’t we start with you?

That’s my main lifestyle, that’s my drive in life. It’s what brings me joy, seeing people get introduced to the sport. I’ve been a hunter all my life and I’ll always continue to do it.

WTR Campfire | Why People HuntI hunt for the sole purpose of feeding my family, feeding my friends and getting those who aren’t interested in the outdoors excited about the outdoors by changing perceptions with respect, honor and a good meal. If we don’t eat, we die as a human species. If I can change someone’s mind by putting a delicious meal in front of them, then I’m going to do my part. I’m going to feed as many people as I can to change as many minds as I can.

I hunt because it’s who I am as a person. I take great pride in being able to provide for my family, being able to provide not only just meat, but that sense of responsibility and that sense of understanding of where your meals come from and the conservation effort behind it. It’s all about responsibility to our planet and a responsibility to ourselves. That would be why I hunt.

I hunt because it’s really all I have. I started as a kid and led to my career and going to college. I’d be lost without it. It’s near and dear to my heart. I want people to see the adventures and the success that I’ve had in my young life. Hopefully they can find an adventure near or far from home and meet some great people along the way.

Brooke?

For me, hunting has taken me to the ends of the Earth. I have been on mountains in New Zealand, in plains in Africa and all over North America. I would never have met my husband without hunting. It’s a bonding experience for my dad and I that’s super special to us, it’s a part of our culture. I very much care about spending time in the outdoors, conserving the outdoors. I love animals. I love knowing where my food comes from. That’s super important to me. That has become my main mission in hunting.

Scott?

My wife calls it my religion. I would be there 24/7 if I could. There is nothing more special for me than to get into an animal’s head and try to think as they do. Humans can say what they feel and think, but they can’t. For me, I moved when I was nine years old from a street that had thirteen kids my age that we played sports together to out in the boonies in Crab Hollow Road in Black Creek, New York where there was nobody. My world was in the woods. Spending all my time out there, that’s where I belong. As everybody said, providing for my family. It’s hard to explain to people. I couldn’t love animals any more, and yet here I have captive deer and people that are like, “How can you have deer and then you turn around and go and shoot an animal?” That needs to be a half-an-hour conversation. I hunt because it is who I am.

I hunt because I’m a steward and I’m a conservationist. I help manage what’s been placed on Earth for us to manage. I have an obligation to every single animal that I’ve ever killed, every single animal that I’ve ever hunted, every single animal that I’ve eaten and fed lots and lots of people. We’re here to be stewards and that means to take care of everything on earth, not just the critters but our water, our air and all those things. I’m a hunter, so nobody would call me an extremist for the environment, but yet I am. It’s a huge paradox that we could sit here, talk and have people from all different places. I’m excited how our panel worked out or how the Campfire worked out. It just worked out beautifully that way because we had all different insights into the world of hunting. It’s up to us and it’s up to every single reader that reads this. We’ll go 50,000, 100,000 probably, if we all share it. We’ll probably get a lot of traffic on this.

Just like you said, Jeremiah, you took a vegan out hunting. Nobody else had ever extended that hand. Ace Luciano talked about adding one and he took one new person every single year hunting. Readers, just do that or have a conversation or get a hold of Jeremiah and say, “I’m having this guy over, his family and what should I feed them? I got this, this and this. Can you give me some recipes?” Jeremiah will give them some recipes, he’ll cook it up and a bottle of beer, some good single malt, bourbon or a good wine. Having said that, it’s up to us. That’s where I want this Campfire series to go. It’s up to us. It’s not up to the media, it’s not up to anything, it’s up to us to come together, reach common ground, and extend a hand.

What you said, taking a new person out is huge. I took out 123 new hunters last year, between the ages of 9 and 79. Not everyone shot an animal, but everyone became a steward of the land and everyone loved it and everyone enjoyed it. To watch a seven-year-old shoot a pheasant, watch a 79-year-old man live his dream and finally shoot a pronghorn in Wyoming, there’s nothing better. I tell everyone all the time, I would not shoot another animal the rest of my life if I could watch someone else get the joy of being outdoors and shooting another animal. I would live with an empty freezer as long as that person gets excited. By you saying take one person out, I have 37,000 followers on Instagram. If each person took one new hunter out this year, that’s 37,000 new people introduced to our sport.

Just do the math. Exponentially just goes off the charts, but we don’t do it. I want to thank each one of you, Chase, Jeremiah, Scott, Brooke, Christopher and Tim. Tom Opre had to leave and Tom Denney had to leave. Thanks for being this and give me some feedback at WhitetailRendezvous@gmail.com. Pluses, minuses, how we can make this better. We’re onto something that CJ and I kicked around and threw it together. We’ve got to get it out there, but I think this was good. I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be part of the Campfire series.

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